Cartography

Cartography (/kɑːrˈtɒɡrəfi/; from Ancient Greek: χάρτης chartēs, "papyrus, sheet of paper, map"; and γράφειν graphein, "write") is the study and practice of making and using maps. Combining science, aesthetics and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality (or an imagined reality) can be modeled in ways that communicate spatial information effectively.

A medieval depiction of the Ecumene (1482, Johannes Schnitzer, engraver), constructed after the coordinates in Ptolemy's Geography and using his second map projection. The translation into Latin and dissemination of Geography in Europe, in the beginning of the 15th century, marked the rebirth of scientific cartography, after more than a millennium of stagnation.

The fundamental objectives of traditional cartography are to:

  • Set the map's agenda and select traits of the object to be mapped. This is the concern of map editing. Traits may be physical, such as roads or land masses, or may be abstract, such as toponyms or political boundaries.
  • Represent the terrain of the mapped object on flat media. This is the concern of map projections.
  • Eliminate characteristics of the mapped object that are not relevant to the map's purpose. This is the concern of generalization.
  • Reduce the complexity of the characteristics that will be mapped. This is also the concern of generalization.
  • Orchestrate the elements of the map to best convey its message to its audience. This is the concern of map design.

Modern cartography constitutes many theoretical and practical foundations of geographic information systems (GIS) and geographic information science (GISc).


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